President Vladimir Putin expressed his wishes when meeting his Syrian counterpart President Bashar al-Assad in Sochi regarding the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria. Nevertheless, the Russian president failed to explain how he would obtain the withdrawal of the US and the Turkish occupation forces of around 50% of the north and east of Syria. These forces have their expansionist plans and geopolitical goals which imply a very long occupation.
Actually, in the light of the explosive situation in the Middle East on several fronts, no force is expected to pull out any time soon. The months to come may reveal belligerent plans that carry the Middle East towards a much wider war. Therefore, both the US and Turkey find it necessary for their forces to be on the ground, very close to the hottest spot in the world, ready to intervene.
President Donald Trump announced months ago his intention to pull out his forces from Syria. He is not ordering his forces to attack and defeat ISIS in al-Hasaka and Deir-ezzour provinces. Many months have gone by with little military activity against ISIS, not serious enough to justify the presence of the US forces and to realistically indicate the declared intention to wage war and destroy exclusively the terrorist group.
Meantime, Washington maintains two main military airports and several bases to host large contingents in the north, and commands around 35,000 militants, Kurds and Arabs. Also, the US, British and French forces in the Kurdish northern area and on the east, at al-Tanaf crossing, train, feed and maintain under their command another 30,000 militants.
But the US is not the only occupation force in the area: Turkey took control of Afrin and Idlib where between 70,000 to 100,000 militants are based, including al-Qaeda (in its old version Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, aka Jabhat al Nusra) and in its new more radical version Horras al-Deen (the Guardians of the Religion). Turkey has established schools, imposed the Turkish language and considers this Syrian territory to be part of Turkey.
Syria is not under northern threat only: in the south, Israel is trying to impose itself on the Syrian theatre. During the years of war, Tel Aviv bombed Syrian and Iranian positions over 100 times.
The explosive situation in the Levant moved towards Palestine where Trump has declared the Palestinian Capital (east and west) as the Capital of Israel, and has inaugurated the new US embassy in Jerusalem, triggering large unrest among the local population.
As if this is was not enough tension, Trump illegally pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran, leaving no margin for his European partners, and threatening the US-EU economic partnership and European companies if they deal with Iran and don’t revoke the deal.
Almost on a daily basis, Trump has imposed new sanctions on Iran and renewed the sanctions on Hezbollah, Iran’s main ally, as a reminder of who is the “world’s enemy” and where the next goal – and most probably guns – will be directed next.
In fact, according to well-informed sources, there are regular meetings on political and military levels taking place in the Middle East, to discuss and plan the next military action and to study war scenarios against Iran and its allies. These scenarios are discussed, much beyond dozens of cruise missiles: a much larger war hitting Iran first and then turning against Damascus. This is all because the “regime change” fans refuse to accept the reality of facts and “give up” the Levant to Russia and the “axis of the Resistance”.
As quoted above, there are over 150,000 militants, armed, in the north and east of Syria, ready to re-engage and start all over again when Iran – and most probably Hezbollah – are under direct attack, incapable of defending their Syrian ally, believe the planners. It could be that the forces under Turkish control may be preparing to attack the Kurds or expand their perimeter of control to reach Aleppo. Nothing is certain in the Levant but one thing: it is not yet over.
This is the most pessimist scenario to apply in Lebanon, Syria and Iran to impose a “new Middle East” and defeat Russia indirectly. The US will be the biggest participant with its military machine – along with Israel – while Middle Eastern countries are happy to finance this campaign. In fact, Trump’s recent decisions against Iran raised the price of oil that is reaching its highest level in the last 4 years. This is providing additional finance to all countries ready to engage in a new war, even if Iran and Russia benefit also from the increase in oil price.
However, such a possible war scenario will fall heavily on the Middle Eastern (including Iran) and the European populations because the war will definitely – in this case – include maritime and air blockage, hitting the straits of Hormuz (or seizing ships) where almost 20% of the world oil trade flows. In 1988, 2007 and 2008, the straits observed a battle between the US and Iran.Any closure of the straits would affect world trade and price of goods worldwide.
No! No force is expected to pull out of Syria. President Putin can only wish, wanting to embark everyone involved in a political settlement, but knowing that he has no control over the players. Putin has no intention of being dragged into a wider war with any of the countries occupying territory in Syria. Therefore, he has no leverage to convince these countries to pull out.
Damascus and Tehran have the same realistic understanding of the rules of the game, while Putin’s wishes are unrealistic and far from being feasible at the moment.
The “game of the nations” is getting hotter, peace talks are still out of reach. The drums of war are still heard all over the Middle East…and maybe beyond.